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At a ceremony held last week in London, we were proud to receive one of the biennial Digital Preservation Awards for our Carcanet Press Email Preservation Project. These prestigious awards are administered by the Digital Preservation Coalition, which does fantastic work to highlight the crucial role of digital preservation in ensuring that today’s digital memory is safeguarded for the future. The awards – which have been running for ten years – raise awareness of digital preservation and celebrate the work of organisations which have made significant and innovative contributions in this area.

The University of Manchester Library’s project tackled the daunting challenge of capturing and preserving the email archive of Manchester’s world-renowed publishers Carcanet Press, whose authors range from established international award-winning poets to up-and-coming new writers. To date we have succeeded in preserving over 200,000 emails generated by the Press and 65,000 attachments, representing the correspondence of 14,000 individuals and covering a twelve-year period. This huge body of digital material will provide a rich resource for the researchers of tomorrow.

Fran Baker (2nd from left) and Sandra Bracegirdle (3rd from left) receiving the award from digital preservation experts Maureen Pennock (of the British Library) and Paul Wheatley

Fran Baker (2nd from left) and Sandra Bracegirdle (3rd from left) receiving the award from digital preservation experts Maureen Pennock (of the British Library) and Paul Wheatley. Photograph courtesy of the DPC.

Our project won the award for Safeguarding the Digital Legacy – which celebrates the practical application of preservation tools to protect at-risk digital objects. The award applications are assessed by an international judging panel, but organisations which are DPC members also have the opportunity to vote for their preferred finalists. On receiving a digest of comments from those who cast their votes for us, we were delighted that several other organisations felt our work would be of practical use to them when tackling email preservation in their own institutional settings.

We were up against stiff competition in our award category as all the other entrants have also done valuable and innovative work: the University of Feiburg and Rhizome have preserved and made accessible a ‘found’ digital artwork based on 1993 computer technology; the Archives and Records Council Wales’s ‘Cloud and the COW’ project established a framework to ensure the preservation of Wales’s digital heritage across multiple institutions; and ‘Inspiring Ireland’, by the Digital Repository of Ireland and partners, was an ambitious project aimed at preserving and sharing Ireland’s digital cultural treasures with an international audience. You can learn more about all the finalists for the awards on the DPC’s website.

The Carcanet Press Email Preservation Project team comprised me (Fran Baker), Dr Phil Butler, Caroline Martin and Ben Green, with Sandra Bracegirdle (Head of Collection Management) as our project sponsor.

You can read more about our work in several earlier blog posts, including one which focuses on our experiments in data visualisation and one which includes our reconstruction of Elizabeth Gaskell’s inbox (circa September 1854).

All the Digital Preservation Awards finalists and judges. Photograph courtesy of the DPC.

All the Digital Preservation Awards finalists and judges. Photograph courtesy of the DPC.